‘Really poor’ first half frustrates Mikel Arteta as Arsenal go down to Brighton

The Gunners went down 2-1 at home to Brighton in the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta and Arsenal had a frustrating afternoon (Aaron Chown/PA)

By Mark Mann-Bryans, PA

Mikel Arteta bemoaned a “really poor” first half as a damaging defeat to Brighton saw their Premier League top-four hopes suffer another setback.

The Gunners boss said the performances in this 2-1 loss and Monday’s 3-0 reverse at Crystal Palace were taking Arsenal “nowhere”.

Enock Mwepu was the star of the show for the visitors, creating Leandro Trossard’s opener before his own fine strike doubled the lead. Martin Odegaard’s late consolation meant Brighton left with a deserved win.

Arsenal were already reeling from defeat at Palace on Monday night and, with Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey missing through injury, their small squad was exposed once more.

Gabriel Martinelli had a goal ruled out for offside but other than that Arsenal rarely threatened and they lost more ground in their hopes of returning to Champions League action.

“The first half was really poor again,” said Arteta.

“The reaction we wanted to show and talked about we really didn’t make it happen on the pitch, we were sloppy on the ball, second best again in situations and didn’t show momentum in the game or play with the right speed.

“What happens now is we criticise ourselves a lot, we were really poor again in the first half. We know this route is taking us nowhere.”

Arteta also felt Arsenal were going to be awarded an equaliser when Martinelli headed home on the stroke of half-time but a lengthy VAR check ruled out his point-blank header.

“That was the feeling we had,” he added. “It was taking too long and if there was any doubt it would be a goal but that wasn’t the case – it was the best moment to change the momentum.

Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was ruled out by VAR (PA)

“We know with the team we have available, the difficult challenge we have ahead that is for sure. The injuries make the situation more complicated but we are not looking for excuses.”

For Brighton, this was just the third league win of 2022 after they had ended a six-game losing run with a goalless home draw against rock bottom Norwich last weekend.

Head coach Graham Potter felt Arsenal could have been unsettled by the enforced changes as his side took full advantage.

“Obviously, they have got a couple of injuries from Monday night, I know Granit Xhaha has played left-back before so you have just got to try and be open for anything the opponent does.

Graham Potter enjoyed his afternoon in north London (Aaron Chown/PA)

“Palace was a tough game and a couple of injuries can destabilise you, we’ve had it ourselves.”

Asked about their turnaround in form, Potter added: “Really pleased is an understatement because I thought it was a really good performance and an even better result.

“It is not easy to do here with the quality they have, a team pushing for the Champions League spaces – so you know they have the quality.

“It makes a difference when you score, it gives you a chance. I’m pleased for the boys…they’ve had to suffer a bit.”

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